PITTSBURGH -- In a celebratory locker room following the Patriots' 21-18 win over the Steelers on Thursday at Acrisure Stadium, veteran safety Jabrill Peppers essentially dedicated the victory to coach Bill Belichick.
"We needed it. I just feel good we could get it done for Bill and the rest of the coaches," Peppers said after the team snapped a five-game losing streak. "I don't really like all the flak he's been getting, because it's on us as players to go out and execute. I personally feel like the game plan has been phenomenal week in and week out, and when we had opportunities to make plays, we didn't make them. But we made enough tonight."
Belichick's 24th season with the Patriots has been among his most challenging, with his team at 3-10 and in last place in the AFC.
In a reflection of the struggles, the Patriots' next game, originally scheduled for Dec. 18 against the Kansas City Chiefs, was flexed out of prime time and will be played Dec. 17 at 1 p.m. ET.
The slide, coupled with the Patriots posting losing records in three of the past four seasons, has sparked media questions if Belichick's run with the franchise that includes six Super Bowl championships could end after the season.
Thursday was Belichick's 507th game (including postseason), which breaks a tie with George Halas and gives him sole possession of second place all time for most games coached behind Don Shula (526).
"I have a lot of respect for Coach, how he does things. He's tough. He's fair," longtime captain David Andrews said after the game. "We're all putting in the most effort we can to try to win."
The Patriots led 21-10 at halftime then relied on their defense the rest of the way.
New England had four previous wins under Belichick when being held scoreless in the second half, with the last such victory coming in Week 2 of the 2013 season.
The Patriots led 21-3 midway through the second quarter and are now 147-2 under Belichick when leading by 18 or more points in a game, according to ESPN Stats & Information. The losses came in 2011 at the Buffalo Bills (led by 21) and the 2006 AFC Championship Game at the Indianapolis Colts (led by 18).
"I thought a really great job by the players and the coaches this week," Belichick said. "Obviously a short week and a tough, disappointing game last week [6-0 loss to the Chargers], but they came in and had a good week of preparation. I thought the guys played with a lot of effort, energy, toughness and resiliency."